PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Visitors to the ‘Cradle of Humankind’, South Africa
Motivations and ‘take home messages’

Anthony Lelliott  

The 'Cradle of Humankind' was declared a World Heritage Site in 1999 because of the nature and extent of the fossil hominins discovered there. Currently, the visitor centres receive up to 250,000 visitors per year, comprising local and international tourists and school excursions. The objectives of the study reported in this paper are as follows: 1. To find out what motivates people to visit the Cradle of Humankind. 2. To ascertain what aspects of the visitor centres people consider were the most influential or significant for them. Data collection for the study consisted of a survey of the general public visiting the two visitor centres in the Cradle area. The survey questionnaire included questions on why they visited the site, whether their visit made them think differently, and what impressions they would take home with them. A total of 810 'general public' visitors were surveyed in 2013, the data entered in a spreadsheet and analysed statistically and qualitatively. Preliminary findings suggest that the most prominent motivations for visiting the 'Cradle of Humankind' were reference to palaeontology and evolution; a 'day out'; learning and interest. Up to half of the visitors think differently about human origins after their visit. The participants seem to think differently about: evolution, human origins and the concept of deep time. Over 80% of visitors at both centres considered that their visit had made an impression on them. At Maropeng, 25% participants referred to the boat ride. At Sterkfontein, 42% of participants referred to the caves and the underground lake. It would appear that visitors can both enjoy themselves (experience of the boat ride and the caves) as well as learn about issues such as human origins, evolution, and the concept of deep time.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.